The death toll has now increased to 24,000. Earlier tonight, it hit 20,000; the number is growing by 9/11 amounts every few hours, and won’t be final for weeks.

Indonesia is reporting 4,725 dead. One hundred have died in the Maldives, and another hundred in Somalia.

Three Australians died in Thailand, including infant Melina Heppell, torn from her father’s arms. Among missing Australians is Paul Giardina, a teenager with Down syndrome. His family is concerned that Paul, if alive, hasn’t the capacity to alert anybody to his plight.

Australians who’ve survived tell their stories here and here. A Canadian survived by clinging to the body of a drowned fisherman, miles out to sea.

The Australian media, as you’ll note from the above links, has covered this magnificently, with incredible depth and care. Last night’s Nine news devoted 14 minutes to the Asian disaster; the only other news story it ran was to do with the Ukrainian elections. SBS broadcast the most haunting footage: several Indonesian children, dead, in a makeshift morgue. Today the Sydney Morning Herald runs a piece directing Australian readers to various major charities:

* CARE Australia. Go to the website or call 1800 020 046.

* The Australian Red Cross. Hit the link, call 1800 811 700, or post a cheque to GPO Box 9949 in your capital city.

* Oxfam; 1800 034 034.

* UNICEF; 1300 884 233.

* and World Vision; 13 32 40.

If you can’t decide on a particular charity, I suggest World Vision. Blogger Dan Gillmor provides a link for US readers who want to donate through the American Red Cross (via Giles). Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has two help lines: call 1800 002 214 for information on relatives or friends in the disaster area, or call +61 1300 555 135 if you’re in the area and need help.

Images of the destruction are shattering.

UPDATE. Malaysian blogger Larry Martin, originally from Texas, e-mails: “Death toll for Malaysia currently stands at 53 with 34 missing.” Lots more info at Larry’s site.

UPDATE II. Glenn Reynolds writes:

This weekend’s deaths were as much a result of poverty and inattention as of earth movement … the best protection against catastrophes, whether foreseen or unforeseen, is a society that is rich enough, and diverse enough, to be well-prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Which means that economic growth, and the freedom that produces it, may be the best guarantor of safety for us all. A rich society can afford to worry about things that a poorer one wouldn’t have the resources to think about.

Good point. While we worry about “global warming”, the poor are killed in their thousands by an actual menace. Meanwhile various entities campaign against the free trade that would make the poor richer … and safer.

UPDATE III. SE Asian bloggers, please post links and updates in comments. Australia needs to know as much as possible about this.

UPDATE IV. Six Australians are now confirmed dead, including Paul Giardina.

World Vision hopes to raise $15 million in donations. I’m in for fifty bucks.

Every stock market open for trading in Asia was down last night.

Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan avoided a tsunami in Galle by minutes.

UPDATE V. The US has prepared an initial $15 million aid package, and sent three surveillance aircraft from Japan. Eight Americans died in the disaster. Israel has dispatched an emergency medical team to Sri Lanka, and is sending food and medicine to other countries.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/28/2004 at 03:39 AM
    1. Tim – thanks for passing on the US Red Cross link.

      Your UK readers can also contribute to the British Red Cross via http://www.redcross.org.uk/news_subsection.asp?id=40238 – the donation form is at the bottom of the article.

      Posted by Giles T on 12/28 at 04:18 AM • #


    1. I hate to discuss any of this clinically, as the horror is beyond imagining.

      But two questions keep occuring to me, and I wonder if anyone has any info.

      1) What about the Australian coast? I don’t see it farther away than Sri Lanka, or Somolia for that matter, and there is no land between the epicenter and Oz. But I have heard nary a word. Was there any impact there in Australia?

      2) The number of fishermen killed. Don’t these waves really only rise within a quarter mile of shore or so? Even then, from the video, these ones don’t look larger than a lot of storm waves. If you were on a boat in the harbor and had an hour warning, wouldn’t it be smart to head INTO the ocean?  What happens out there that could have killed so many fishermen?

      Any thoughts? And God be with those affected by this unimaginable tragedy.

      Posted by druu222 on 12/28 at 04:41 AM • #


    1. There’s been all sorts of strange tidal happenings on the West Australian coast including areas as far away as a couple of hundred kilometres south of Perth.

      Monday around 4pm people in the coastal town of Kalbarri, 590km north of Perth, reported tidal surges that washed over the reef at the mouth of the Murchison river and continued up the river.

      In Geraldton, 420km north of Perth, a 2m tidal surge damaged fishing boats and caused minor flooding at shops surrounding the town’s marina.

      At Rockingham, 35km south of Perth, a tragedy was narrowly averted on Boxing Day when families walking back along a sandbar from a nearby coastal island were swept into the ocean by what observers called a freak tide. Thankfully several boaters in dinghys and on jetskis plucked about 30 people from the water and got them to dry land.

      On Monday tidal surges were reported at the normally placid Geographe Bay, some 230km south of Perth.

      So there still seem to be weird things happening even now.

      Posted by Gareth on 12/28 at 05:46 AM • #


    1. 2nd par on the post above, read Sunday for Monday. Apologies.

      Posted by Gareth on 12/28 at 05:47 AM • #


    1. The actual earthquake occurred at the western end of the Melanesian Archipelago. The areas that got a lot of damage are the ones where it’s a straight line over open ocean from there, or at most a single bank shot.

      Australia’s west cost has a lot of complex formations between it and the source of the earthquake. That doesn’t mean there are or will be no effects; it means that the effects will be more complex, and generally of lesser magnitude, after the waves are reflected, refracted, and dissipated through all the islands, straits, shallow bits, etc. in the intervening space.

      What’s astonishing to me is how long this is persisting. Geologists are saying the whole Earth rang like a bell from the quake; now we get to watch the whole ocean sloshing around for days afterward.

      Ric Locke

      Posted by Ric Locke on 12/28 at 06:39 AM • #


    1. Glenn Reynolds comments are so true, without available resources people remain helpless victims to the natural forces of life.

      Posted by rog on 12/28 at 07:01 AM • #


    1. As regards fisherman, again it’s complex, but this time it has to do with prosperity. A tsunami wave isn’t dangerous to a boat on the open ocean; it may not even be noticeable. But don’t think of it in terms of Western fishermen with forty-foot steel boats and hundred-HP engines.

      Fishermen in that area aren’t open-ocean operators; they’re one and two-man operations in cockleshells, who rarely or never get out of sight of land and may in many cases be rowing rather than having a motor. Radio? Don’t be silly.

      Most of the fish they’re after live in relatively shallow water, on the shelves off the coast. That’s just where the tsunami wave starts being dangerous, as the rising bottom forces the wave to start bunching up and get tall instead of wide. So poor fishermen are right there with poor shore-dwellers as being the ones most at risk.

      Even if they had warning, at rowing speeds they wouldn’t be able to get far enough to sea to help—even assuming they thought their fragile boats would be suitable for deep-sea work, which they largely aren’t. A guy and his ten-year-old kid on a six-foot-long shell made of reeds, with no fresh water, nothing to eat, and no navigational equipment but Mark I eyeball are not exactly equipped for long voyages.

      Ric Locke

      Posted by Ric Locke on 12/28 at 07:10 AM • #


    1. Good info, folks, thanks.

      I am figuring, like you, that the wave rises as soon as it gets to the continental shelf, and thus any boats afloat over that shelf are in trouble if the wave is too big.

      TV has been talking of uncounted fishermen “who went to sea, not to return”. I can only assume they were still close enough to shore to be hit, although an event such as this is so rare and titanic, who can really say.

      Posted by druu222 on 12/28 at 07:48 AM • #


    1. DTAM
      EQ List
      These aren’t about the human part of the equation, but they do give background and a current list of earthquake activity in the world. That is the neic link.

      Posted by Mike H. on 12/28 at 08:55 AM • #


    1. I was wondering about the impact on Australia, too.  Was there any damage to the Wickham/Karratha areas in northwest Western Australia?

      Thanks for all of the links.  The info really helps.

      Posted by Polly on 12/28 at 10:25 AM • #


    1. Tim, I disagree about your comment that the MSM covered the reporting “with incredible depth and care” when it comes to the ABC.  The ABC are putting the boot into Alexander Downer, read here Tsunami survivors criticise Aust rescue effort.  I am amazed at how selfish Joanne Ali sounds, there were real people in need around her and she says, in response to aid such as blankets and water being provided, “We all just went ‘oh great, that’s going to do a lot for us’, we just want to get out of here”.  I thought us Aussies were a little less selfish after listening to the stories of heroism after the Bali bombing. Shame Joanne and the ABC.

      (Strange line breaks eliminated. Be careful when hitting the “enter” key or using other software like Windows Notepad to edit your comment. Line breaks in the wrong place can break the Pmcode. The Management.)

      Posted by Stevo on 12/28 at 11:00 AM • #


    1. Yes, Steve, the Australian blame-someone disease was manifest before even 20 hours had passed. And not just on the ABC. Channel Nine broadcast an incredible attack by the missing Down Syndrome boy’s relatives on the Australian Government for not finding him within that time span. Whatever happened to the shit happens, now get over it attitude that was once prevalent in this country? Much Christmas Day discussion at our knees-up revolved around ever-increasing restrictions on behaviour triggered by personal injury litigation fears. Did the tsunami wipe out any law schools?

      Posted by slatts on 12/28 at 11:33 AM • #


    1. The blame someone else is a socialist principle – none of us are personally responsible for our actions etc etc. In is ingrained in the left to such an extent I doubt they realise they say it.

      I would also suggest one get a copy, or get it from the library, of Ted Bryant’s book, Tsunami: the underrated hazard. The East cost of Australia was hit by a Tsunami in the 15th century.

      Posted by Louis on 12/28 at 12:21 PM • #


    1. I feel helpless.  Often in the face of such tragedy we search for perfectly aimed charities, and in this case there is none.  The Red Cross, the UN offices, and similar NGOs will do the heavy lifting…and those orgs are, by and large, badly mismanaged and inefficient.

      But I’ve been carefully targeting small, apparently very efficient orgs with my charity dollars.  They won’t help the victims of this catastrophe at all.

      Poor nations need big institutions for their charity.  Those institutions are usually inefficient and sometimes pathetic, but constant, blind support keeps them going, and without them, the victims of this disaster and others like it will suffer far more.

      Posted by littlebeartoe on 12/28 at 01:09 PM • #


    1. I can understand traumatised people saying irrational things but I can`t forgive the media outlets that make headlines out of them

      Posted by Kenneth G on 12/28 at 01:50 PM • #


    1. At least those Australians have homes to return to – unlike the tens of thousands around them who have died, or the hundreds of thousands who now have to contend with disease while attempting to rebuild. One way the Australian Government could help these people is to not issue them passports in the first place!  Of course, media coverage here in the eastern United States has been dominated by those poor souls who lost their baggage or missed flights over the Xmas holidays because of problems with US Airways – oh, and then , like, thousands of people died in Asia … but first, back to the airport and some obnoxious traveller complaining about their lost bag and delayed flight to Florida.

      Posted by mikedc2 on 12/28 at 02:33 PM • #


    1. Give this man a Wolcott Fists Of Fury Award.

      Posted by Donnah on 12/28 at 04:14 PM • #


  1. Reports on the BBC World Service radio yesterday were blaming the Hawaii based Pacific tsunami office for not doing more to properly warn those in the Indian ocean.  They further alluded to failure by the Australian government to pass on those warnings to affected countries.  How pathetic of the BBC.

    If you believe the BBC, then governments of those countries don’t have seismographs or scientists who can advise them?  As someone who lived on earthquake prone areas for years, I knew the most urgent warning for any tsunami is the earthquake itself.  If you live on or near the ocean and feel an earthquake you must head to higher ground immediately.  Don’t wait for some “official warning”.

    This was an act of nature and no one is to blame.  If there is any responsibility it is the failure to educate people of the risk and proper action to take.  And that responsibility surely wasn’t on the Pacific tsunami warning office.

    Posted by Rob on 12/29 at 02:59 AM • #